Hi All, Live here in northern california. Looking for ground cover ideas for this winter. I don't want the girls to have to go out into mud. Had down pine shaving, had first rain, now it smells like it's souring.. Need all ideas. Thanks.
Sand or gravel will promote drainage (dry = less stink, less flies) and won't break down. A good deep layer, at least 4", and significantly more is better.
Anything organic will eventually break down, become more of a water-holding sponge, and create worse mud, unless you shovel it all out and replace with new in a timely fashion.
Organic stuff can make sense if you have a free source and don't mind the labor, but otherwise, there is a lot to be said for sand or a sand/gravel mix, if you ask me. You can still add cut grass/weeds/whatever for them to scratch and pick through, just make sure to remove 'em before they start to come apart into little pieces and mix in with the sand/gravel.
i personally don't like using pine shavings. i think they're messy. i used to use straw, and when the pens got wet i would spread the straw around to give my girls dry footing. i would rake it up after a couple days and put down more, to keep things dry.
i recently switched to hay, Orchard Grass hay. It's softer and easier for me to work with for nest and coop lining. Not sure how good it will be for keeping the pen dry. We haven't really gotten any rain yet. But it stays puffier than straw, so i would think it wouldn't pack down as much.
I put sand in my covered fenced run and a cheap grass/clover mix in the area around it. No question the girls prefer the grass but I'm not sure how well it would grow if they were on it all the time. I found to keep the mud down I had to cover the run. (rainforest here)
If the run is big enough to partition into a few sections you could do that, seeding one and the the other. They could "range" on one part while you overseed and grow out the other part.
I have considered temporary fencing for mine to contain them in an area I want them to clear.
i have sod in mine and it seems to be holding up to them pretty well. I did put a layer of grass seed UNDER the sod too so when that came it it was pretty nice for them. I an noticing it start to die back, but so is the whole neighborhood worth of lawn...for the fall winter dormancy.
So far I've had really great results with my latest experiment...
My run used to be a dog run before the chickens were in there, and it already had a layer of gravel. That helped somewhat, but it was still kinda mucky with all of the chicken poo and bare dirt where they would scratch the gravel away.
I spread out a bale of fresh coastal hay over the ground and it has worked amazingly well. Even when it gets wet it dries quickly and has not turned moldy. Also, the chickens like to scratch around in there looking for bugs so they keep the hay naturally stirred up which seems to make the poo sink down to the bottom and brings the clean hay up to the top.
It has lasted for a couple of months so far and still looks nice and clean. My plan was to add clean hay on top (sort of like the deep litter method I use in my coop) a couple of times and then eventually just rake it all out and replace it completely once it started looking yucky.
I also sprinkled a bunch of stall dry into the hay to help with moisture and flies.
Great Ideas. I have to keep the rain in mind. I do believe I am going to have to cover the run. I didn't want to because it just more expense. And DH won't do any thing 1/2 _ss , it must be a contractor thing. We are just finishing up the coop and run and we got our first 24 hour rain last week end. Pine shavings are still drying out. Smells sour. I've thought and am still thinking. Sounds like cover and gravel/sand is the ticket. Thanks
Here in the beautiful NW, it rains and rain and rains! We know about mud! DH covered our 8x10 run with a huge tarp and put small pieces of wood underneath in the center of the tarp, to make it like an A shape, so the water will run off. Seems to be working so far.
We've already had a considerable amount of rain and it's doing it's job. We also have landscape cloth hanging down the front of the run, to keep some water/sun off the run, and that helps too. We do use hay too, and we have only had to rake up the edges of the run every few days. Or the girls stir it up for us, and then we don't have to.